Tae Kim is Korean

Hi guys,

Finally I’m starting learning grammar, and as a first step, I decided to use the free resource Tofugu suggests: Tae Kim’s A Guide to Japanese Grammar
But I made a quick research about the author and I found he’s actually Korean and I can’t find any mention about him speaking Japanese anywhere…
Though I don’t know anything at all about the Korean language, I’m wondering if it is a serious resource, can a Korean teach you the Japanese grammar??.. isn’t it like an Italian teaching Spanish??

I’m a bit unsure, yet I will start with this one, then I’ll move on to buying an actual physical book (or maybe more than one)


You’ve never had a non native language teacher before? In any case, his explanations are well formulated and correct.


Pretty sure I heard it started out as his notes which he later structured better and published online.

And it’s not a secret he is not a native speaker. I think he writes about it in the grammar website.



If you were trying to hide that you’re not Japanese, you probably wouldn’t call it Tae Kim’s guide.


Though, the name “Jaered” does strangely spring to mind. :stuck_out_tongue:


well yes, but I’m expecting a Korean to teach Japanese in Korean, not in English, that’s what confused me
But as I said, this won’t stop me from using this resource :blush:


Ah okay, you didn’t mention that part! If any questions pop up, you can ask in the Short Grammar Questions thread!


cool, thank you!

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Wait til you find out what religion the Pope is.

runs away really fast


The Space Pope or the Cage Pope?


Well, I’m a portuguese learning japanese in english, it’s kinda the same principle xD


I don’t think it’s weird. I may know only one language, but there are so many multi-lingual people in the world. They know more than me for sure.


Actually, Tae Kim’s explanations are often confusing and incorrect.

The creator of Imabi posted this (trying his best to be nice):

One quality that the creator of Tae Kim lacks which I’ve embraced for quite a lot time has been humility, and I believe it serves as the core difference between our philosophies and the stance of veterans here that disapprove of his work. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a Shitsumonday thread in the past four years or so I’ve frequented here that didn’t have at least one Tae Kim reference that was not later scrutinized by very knowledgeable individuals and or native speakers. Yet, as many know, you could have a copy of Tae Kim’s work from 2008 and compare the same pages to what is there now and nothing will have changed. There is no evidence that he cares about the mistakes/critiques floating about. Sure, you shouldn’t dwell on people critiquing your work, but as for me, I’ve always shadowed remarks made about my work, and I make good on the commitment to fixing any flaws that are pointed out (and I don’t even make an income off my stuff when he does :/).

There is more for him not taking critcism well, like when he appeared in the comments here on an r/badlinguistics post pointing out his mistakes.

I want to say that of the 3 Tae Kim articles I have ever read (and only 1 of these 3 were really selection biased), and literally all of them were misleading, oversimplifying, or just outright wrong. People will defend this by saying it is for beginners, but they are also often still confusing despite all of these things.

Let me just trace through the 3 I have read:

  1. Introduction to Particles

This is the worst of all of them. Its also literally the first actual grammar lesson (other than introducing だ as the copular). The worst part is the introduction to が:

This is where the 「が」 particle comes into play. It is also referred to as the subject particle but I hate that name since “subject” means something completely different in English grammar. Instead, I call it the identifier particle because the particle indicates that the speaker wants to identify something unspecified.

This, naturally doesn’t make any sense. The correct explanation would be something on the lines of “が typically marks the subject, but occasionally it marks other parts of speech. Generally, when something is marked, it is the important “thing” the speaker wants you to think about which is is either acting or being acted upon.” People may say that is wordy and confusing for a beginner, and fine, but Tae Kim’s explanation is just nonsense.

Then he tries to give the nuance between は and が (another point against being aimed at beginners) but gives an explanation that is simultaneously confusing and not helpful.

However, the second sentence is specifying who the 「学生」 is. If we want to know who the student is, the 「が」 particle tells us it’s 「私」. You can also think about the 「が」 particle as always answering a silent question. The second sentence might be answering a question, “Who is the student?” I often translate the topic particle as “as for; about” and the identifier particle as “the one; the thing” to illustrate the difference.

Like, what? Sure, は is literally something like “as for” but the literal English translation doesn’t help at all in giving the nuance. Generally, if one wanted to highlight the difference in oversimplified terms, just say that は is kind of like “the” and が is like “a.” A full detailed account on the differences could take several pages, at least, and would require more understanding of grammar to illustrate.

When I was learning, I actually tried using Tae Kim’s guide, and this is where I stopped, and man am I glad I did.

  1. Expressing “must” or “have to”

The main thing here is he gives ないとならない as a valid way of saying “have to.” The grammaticality of this is disputed. If you look it up, you will see some resources saying it is OK, some resources saying it is linguistically awkward, and some resources saying it ungrammatical. At the very least, one would expect some sort of warning about this. But nope, its included.

If you try to wave it away by saying it is for beginners and not to overwhelm them, then why include it in the first place? It isn’t a very common pattern (obviously given its linguistic status), and for speaking there are a ton of other patterns (like the 11 other ones listed by Tae Kim, along with their truncations).

And of course, he gives all of these patterns, but fails to actually convey any of the nuance between them as well.

I read this article originally because it was linked to by BunPro.

  1. Giving and receiving in Japanese: The guide says this:

Using 「やる」 to mean 「あげる」

Usually used for pets, animals, and such, you can substitute 「やる」, which normally means “to do”, for 「あげる」. You would normally never use this type of 「やる」 for people. I only included this so that you won’t be confused by sentences like the following.

Which is super misleading. やる and てやる are both used in other contexts. It generally has a vulgar feel to it (not just rude), so you typically mainly see it in media with action and stuff.

It also (though I don’t really fault it for this) really give the nuance between using あげる and やる for pets. Basically, older people tend to use やる for pets more than younger people, because やる used to not have the level of vulgarity/rudeness associated with it and was just normal to use when giving to inferiors, but slid down so far that あげる is just the default way for everything that isn’t a superior. But old people will still feel uncomfortable using あげる with pets.

I only read this article because I remember a learning asking me confusedly about やる based on what they saw in the guide. So this one is admittedly selection biased.


no please, you’re confusing me, now I fear this is not a good resource to study grammar with, and I already completed chapter 1 today!

OK, so based on your experience as a Japanese learner, what other better resource do you recommend us??

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A native teacher and Genki is fine. You can continue to use Tae Kim as a reference to expand on what you’re learning, but using the language with a real human and doing those annoying workbooks is more effective than the internet wants you to think.


If helps, I learned the basics from Tae Kim and I turned out alright.

I didn’t notice anything at the time (I knew too little to tell), and keep in mind that even if there are explanations that are off you’re going to naturally correct those as your understanding becomes intuitive from exposure.


よかった!! thank you so much, I’ll carry on with Tae Kim then


It’s probably fine. I mean learning from imperfect source is still miles better than not learning at all.

And, what I have found after picking up english as my second language, is that in the beginning grammar is a real pain in the ass, until you pick up enough of it, to go consume media in that language. Movies, books, songs, whatever, and you will pick up grammatical structures without even knowing it.

I don’t think that I would be able to recite any of the formulas that my teacher drilled into my head when learning english, and I think I am fine at it (I mean, I hope so, if not, please don’t tell me…).

Best of luck!


If you want something free, online, and equivalent in scope and readability, I recommend Wasabi’s grammar guide. When you have the basics down, I recommend moving onto Bunpro and pull from various sources.

Imabi is really good for a “second look” into grammar points, and Pomax’s guide is good to learn some grammar etymology.